European careers: how Generation Z will transform YOUR job

The challenges of 2020 have thrown up big questions about the future of work. Will working from home become the norm? Will a more ethical business world emerge from the coronavirus crisis?

European careers: how Generation Z will transform YOUR job
Photo: Getty Images

This year has also intensified the focus on questions related to existing trends, such as whether flexi-time will become the norm in the future. 

You may be one of hundreds of millions of people globally with an interest in the answers. As the pandemic increases the pressure for businesses to change, a new generation of ‘digital natives’ is ready to take advantage of new opportunities as they finish their studies and begin their careers.

The world is already changing around them – and soon they’ll be further transforming it themselves. Here, The Local, in partnership with the prestigious ESCP Business School, takes a closer look at Generation Z (those born from the mid-1990s until the early 2010s) and the ways in which they could change companies and workplaces. 

Find out how ESCP Business School can prepare you for your future career

Connections that are personal (not only digital!)

The colleagues you once saw every day may have become increasingly distant over the course of this year. It’s easy to feel that digitalisation is taking over everything – and that the next generation will want it that way.

Not according to Karima Belkacemi, careers advisor coach at ESCP Business School, who says the students she works with thrive on “face-to-face connection”. In fact, they’ll expect deeper relationships with their bosses than earlier generations, she says. 

“They want managers who act as mentors,” she says. “That’s what real leadership means to this generation: a person who will always be there for you. They want a personal relationship with a manager who will focus on their development and be willing to help explain things.”

So, your future workplace might see much more personal connection – not less.

Work from anywhere – not only from home

Today’s students had to rapidly adjust to studying online from home due to the pandemic. Many students on ESCP’s Bachelor in Management (BSc) also ended up doing internships lasting three or four months remotely from home.

Leading in a changing world: find out more about ESCP’s Bachelor in Management

While this gave them a chance to let their digital skills shine, they would have preferred to physically attend. “While the school has provided the best possible transition to distance learning, the change has meant students now understand even more clearly the value of working in close collaboration with other people,” says Belkacemi.

She says young people want to shape the world to give them both work-life balance and the option of working from anywhere, not only at home.

Photos: Karima Belkacemi of ESCP/Getty Images

Promoting fun, flexibility and fluidity

Until now, only a lucky few have turned up to work expecting to have fun. But the new generation aren’t too concerned about how things worked in the past.

Growing up as ‘digital natives’, they see entertainment and experimentation as crucial aspects of life – and work.

“Our students really want managers with a gift for making their work fun,” says Belkacemi. “This generation loves to test stuff out and learn about new things.” 

Asked what they most want from their employer, almost half (47 percent) of ‘Gen Z’ respondents said a fun work environment, according to a KPMG report entitled Generation Z Talent. Almost as many (44 percent) wanted flexibility in their work schedule.

The option of working ‘flexitime’ remains a notable benefit today. But amid so many wider social changes, many young people about to enter the workforce may see it as part of the ‘new normal’.

Belkacemi says Generation Z have no fear of trying different paths and companies will have to change how they operate in order to attract talent. Many young people are not only interested in working for companies or leaders who inspire them – but also in having the freedom to create their own inspirational brands. Established companies will have to respond to the challenges posed by this new wave of businesses.

“They aren’t scared of the pace of change and they all want to try entrepreneurship at some point,” says Belkacemi. “The working environment is really important too – if they work for a company, they want big open plan offices like Facebook or Google.”

An end to old school management?

Whatever happens in the business world today, its next generation of employees is watching. One slip up in a company’s social media communications could do serious harm to its image among young people.

“These students care about the values of a company they might apply to,” says Belkacemi. “I think the old style of management is over. This generation won’t want to work with you if they think your company doesn’t care about sustainability or if they don’t like your managerial practices. They’re very open about that.”

The ESCP Bachelor in Management (BSc) focuses on new ways of managing – and is designed to inspire its students with the principles of ethics, responsibility and sustainability.

Companies today must adapt and many are also making these values more central to their operations, as well as allowing more remote working via digital tools. Such actions could help a business recruit the best of Generation Z.

“Their attitude is that they want a goal to work towards, before deciding on a job,” continues Belkacemi. “Then they want the freedom to achieve that goal in the best possible way – which means flexibility in when, how and where the work is done.”

Companies that can convince young people they offer all of this will be successful, she predicts. “If someone from Generation Z loves what they do, they’ll work hard and bring you success,” she says. “They want to change the world in five minutes.”

It may take a little longer than that. But their positive impact on workplaces of the future has already begun.

Find out more about ESCP Business School and how its Bachelor in Management seeks to inspire with the principles of ethics, responsibility and sustainability.


My Swedish Career: ‘You need to win the hearts of the Swedish people to be able to succeed’

After moving from Nigeria to Sweden, Arinze Prosper Emegoakor struggled with adapting to life in Sweden while staying true to his cultural roots. Now he's starting a business with the aim of telling stories about his African culture and identity - through socks.

My Swedish Career: 'You need to win the hearts of the Swedish people to be able to succeed'
Photo: Maria Stenström

Arinze had tried living in Sweden before returning in 2011, but it was only on his second stint in the country that he felt able to settle down.

“When I was 20 years old, I travelled to the Netherlands and met my ex-wife there who is Swedish”, he recalls. “I lived in Sweden for a short period, but I couldn't stay. It was too difficult for me to adapt to the environment. But I came back, and since 2011 I have been living here in Malmö.”

After joining a kickboxing-gym in the southern city and going out every night to build a social life, Arinze joined the Pan African Movement for Justice. The organization aims for equality for people of African descent in Sweden, and it was here that he found a purpose in his adopted country.

“I got involved in the Pan African Movement for Justice and became a board member of that organization. That provided me with a strong network of people that motivated and educated me. These people are doing something positive in society. That started my journey in Sweden,” he says.

After moving, Arinze remembers struggling with his identity and finding a balance between staying connected to his roots and adapting to his new environment.

“Being raised in Africa and having lived most of my life in the western world, there was a constant struggle about what I believed in and who I was”, he notes.

“The environment in which I was raised and the Swedish norms are very different in terms of how people express [themselves] and how they see things. I want to be a contributor to this society. I don't want to sit and observe. How do I do that and still keep to my core values? How do I adapt and not attract any unnecessary attention? Being an African man while also being a member of Swedish society was hard at first.”

It was all about finding a comfortable balance, something he now thinks he's achieved: “What I did was accept who I am and who I have become. Through my journeys and my stay in Sweden, I've become a hybrid of culture and identity.”

“I cannot completely behave or act like I was in Africa because of the culture and norms in Sweden. But I still have my original values. I mixed my values with the norms of Swedish society. That is the balance.”

During his childhood in Nigeria, Arinze spent a lot of time with his grandmother, who he credits with introducing him to the power of storytelling.

“I found that the people don't usually say 'do not steal' or 'do not lie', but people tell you stories”, he says. “In this story, the thief will get what he deserves. There's a powerful message there. Through storytelling, you take up these values automatically.”

His roots in the Nigerian Igbo culture inspired Arinze to start his own sustainable bamboo sock company called Akụko. And he has put the power of storytelling at the core of the company.

Through the colourful collection of socks, he hopes to start conversations and tell the story of his culture.

“Through storytelling, movement and style esthetics, we make people curious to find out more”, he says. “The design of my first collection is inspired by a musical instrument called ogene, which is a kind of gong. In my village, it is used to call for meetings. When people want to call for a meeting they tell the town crier, and he will go around to play the ogene to gather people.”

Akụko isn't the first business Arinze has started. He learned valuable lessons after starting up an entertainment company for Afrobeat music in 2014.

“We had shows in Malmö and Stockholm. It was fun, but we failed financially”, he says. “I started to wonder: why did we fail? I found that the Swedish people aren't easily impressed, especially when you're an outsider. You have to be humble and connect to them. Win the heart of the people, connect with the society and community around your brand. Go for value and the money will come.”

Arinze hopes that his work on his second business, and its roots in his native culture, will inspire more people of African descent to follow their goals and dreams. “

If they want to start their own business they should go for it”, he says.

“They need to see more people who are like them doing positive things. We can inspire the next generation to do so, be role models. I have documented the blueprint of my journey, and I'm ready to share it with anyone that needs tips about how to crowdfund or how to start up a business. People can always contact me for support on how to realize your their goals in Sweden.”